As many as 175 chemicals that have certain hazardous properties are currently being used for manufacturing food contact packaging in the United States and Europe, new research published in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants warns.
According to the Food Packaging Forum, which conducted the study, these chemicals have various effects on human health but are legally used in the production of packaging that comes into contact with food, such as foils, cans and storage containers. The chemicals leak into the food products in low amounts and are ingested by consumers on a regular basis.
Some of these substances are known to have carcinogenic or mutagenic properties, while others are believed to have an effect on the hormone system. Authors of the research claim that some of the chemicals are persistent and bioaccumulative, and their effect on human health is unknown in the long term, Food Safety News reported.
The chemicals identified in food packaging include phthalates — an example of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that may lead to male infertility, genital malformations and cancer. Other potentially toxic substances, benzophenones and organotin compounds, are also believed to be endocrine-disrupting. Most of the 175 chemicals are classified as Substances of Very High Concern under the EU chemical regulation REACH, which means that they are expected to be phased out and eventually replaced with safer alternatives. Yet chemicals used in the manufacture of food contact packaging are not directly affected by this phasing out because they are regulated separately, according to Food Safety News.